The Mindy Project is my favorite new show. I’m not ready to put it in my list of favorite shows ever, but out of everything I’ve seen so far this season, it’s the best. Sure, some aspects of the structure and plots are typical sitcom fare, but the show is self-aware enough to make it work. And as much as I tried not to focus on it, I’m sucked in by the dynamic between bickering OB/GYNs Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and Danny Castellano (Chris Messina).
Last night’s episode 1×05 “Danny Castellano Is My Gynecologist” was supposed to air a few weeks ago but got derailed by Hurricane Sandy and other scheduling. I was worried that it would seem out of sequence, but the show is young enough that this episode still captured Mindy and Danny’s prickly chemistry. (It also helped that they added in an opening where Mindy freaks when her boyfriend Josh accidentally puts on her jeans.) The main plot is that Mindy needs a new gynecologist and Danny volunteers, though he thinks that it’ll be too weird for her since she has the hots for him (“I’ve seen you checking me out when I wear tight shirts”). She counters that he’s the one with feelings for her, so what ensues is a game of chicken where each tries to make the other more uncomfortable.
I completely acknowledge that Mindy and Danny’s dynamic isn’t that original, and their one-upmanship in this episode reflects one of the most common sitcom tropes. But what elevates it is the setting. The fact that The Mindy Project is set at an OB/GYN improves the show all around: We’re witnessing these characters in their work environment, and their personal and professional conflicts mesh well. (It’s not like they’re spending all their time at a bar. coughHIMYMcough) The fact that they deal with around-the-clock births and other intricacies of women’s bodies adds a layer of intimacy.
For all their sniping at each other, Mindy and Danny are gonna get together. And last night, they got further than a lot of TV couples. He touched her breast! And she definitely seemed to like it.
Of course, before we got to this point, Danny did a damn fine job of exposing Mindy’s insecurities. That’s the problem with working in such close quarters with these people; they know what makes you tick. Mindy consistently falls back on poking at Danny’s divorce to get a rise out of him, but his method is a lot more creative, mostly because Mindy has more than just one fear. The brutal way that he took down her dream of four kids by realistically reminding her that she was in her mid-30s and not in a serious relationship was all the more bleak because it was clear that he was reflecting on his own lack of family. And the scene where he mercilessly weighed her was painful to watch.
But it was also funny, because here Mindy has someone who gives as good as he gets. I’m impressed with how Mindy Kaling and the other writers don’t let her semi-autobiographical character off the hook. She often comes out the loser after encounters with Danny because of how he’ll touch upon her weight. Sure, he sounds like a douchebag, but she’s not much better.
After Mindy kept getting taken down a peg or seven, I was slightly surprised when Danny wasn’t able to get through the breast exam. But when they got to that moment, she knew that she had the upper hand, being an attractive woman. It’s interesting how he can intimidate her when she’s clothed — the scene where she backed down and muttered, “I’m sorry, Dr. Castellano” was great – but once the hospital gown comes off, she’s in control of the situation. Maybe because she tricks him into talking about his family, including the father he hasn’t seen for 25 years. Even though Mindy was the one without her top on, Danny turned out to be more naked. Sure, it’s a tried-and-true trope… but there’s a reason it was successful.
I’m gonna keep watching The Mindy Project for the great one-liners and to see how else Mindy Kaling ties her character up in knots, but also because it’s fun to see how far they push the bounds of having their leads be ruthlessly mean to each other.
Photos: Fox, attractedtosin (Tumblr)